We Put Too Many Expectations on Alex Morgan
Alex Morgan has over 100 caps and 100 games for her national team. She has a World Cup title. She’s has an Olympic gold medal at home too. And an NWSL title. And a Champions League title. She has done pretty well for herself is what I’m saying. But when I think of Alex Morgan’s greatest moments I think of 2011 and 2012. I think of the player who busted her way on to the scene with a slightly unusual gate and the ability to lift the world on her shoulders. That player was exciting to watch, that player made everyone else look a little bit slower and a little bit less good than they were. I think of Morgan when all she had to be was really good at playing soccer. But time and injury changed who she is on the pitch. She is no longer the young player who can play without major expectations on her shoulders. She is not the player with an older, more famous, more experienced forward alongside her. She is that forward now and all the weight of the world now rests on her. Every move is broken down, slowed down, fast forwarded and watched over and over by millions of people. Don’t get me wrong, expectations are fine as long as they are reasonable. But when they reach the level that no one would be able to meet them they became a stone around a player’s neck. Morgan has the fate of the game on her shoulders in ways that seem impossible for anyone to come out from under. And oh my do heavy expectations seem to cling to Morgan. She has to be the role model that everyone can relate to and she has to be flawless in front of HD cameras and she has to score all the biggest goals and she has to lead equal pay lawsuits. We expect too much and come down too hard when those expectations aren’t met. The crazy thing is just how much less we expect out of male athletes. Sure we expect the best forwards to score goals when their team needs them. We expect on the field things. But do we really expect Messi to look flawless on camera or to champion issues off of the field? No, we expect him to play soccer. He is afforded the luxury of just being able to have one job. Play soccer really, really well and make an obscene amount of money doing it. I don’t think many people will argue with the fact that 2015 was not the best tournament Morgan has ever had. It’s not even the best World Cup tournament Morgan has ever had. She was coming off an injury and there were so many other story lines around that 2015 team. It was a team defined by Abby Wambach finally get her title and Lauren Holiday retiring and Carli Lloyd’s hat trick. It was a tournament that became catharsis for a team that hadn’t gotten it done in 16 years. But 2019? Sure, there is the storyline of if the US can go back-to-back but largely people are putting those hopes on Morgan. Yes, players like Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath, Mal Pugh and Christen Press are going to get articles written about them and we will see footage of Ertz and Horan broken down to the point of madness. But Morgan is now the starting center forward on a team that are the favorites in the World Cup. Even if she wasn’t Alex Morgan that is going to come with pressure. Because she is, there is even more added on. I hope Morgan plays well. I hope she scores a lot of goals. I hope she finds the form that we’ve seen flashes of her whole career. I hope most of all I don’t see 10 pieces written about how her legacy is forever diminished if she is merely good, merely solid, merely human after the final game is played.